Kyle Kasser arrived at Oregon as a walk-on and left as an all-Pac-12 infielder.
After being taken in the 30th round of the Major League Baseball draft by Kansas City, Kasser once again has a steep climb ahead in pro baseball.
“I’m the underdog, probably always will be,” Kasser said last week from Kansas City’s extended spring training in Surprise, Ariz., as he waited to hear where he will begin his minor-league career. “I will keep doing what I do and what got me to where I am and see where it goes. I am confident it will work out.”
Kasser went undrafted following his junior season with the Ducks when he batted .352, but gained name recognition with scouts heading into the spring when he batted .278 with 10 stolen bases.
“I was fairly confident going into the draft because I had talked to about 20 or 25 teams during the season,” he said.
Kasser was with his family June 6 listening to an audio stream on the third and final day of the draft when his name popped up as the No. 902 overall selection. Kansas City had been one of the first teams to contact Kasser during the season and showed the most interest in him, along with Boston.
“It was nerve-wracking because you don’t know when or where you will be picked,” Kasser said. “A new world is about to bust open within a matter of seconds.”
There is not much leverage in negotiating a deal for seniors taken in the later rounds of the draft so Kasser signed with the Royals four days after being selected.
“They handed me a little bit of money, but it is all about the opportunity and I hope to make the most of it,” he said. “I want to make my family proud and my coaches proud and honor them by going out and giving it my all. Go as far as the game takes me.”
Kasser is expected to start out with the Idaho Falls Chukars of the rookie-level Pioneer League. After playing all four infield positions during four seasons with the Ducks, Kasser expects to begin at shortstop in the Royals’ organization.
The 5-foot-8 Kasser did not receive a scholarship out of Brea (Calif.) Olinda High School and had 24 at-bats as a freshman. He earned a starting role as a sophomore and was a first-team all-conference pick as a junior to earn scholarship money as a senior.
He started the final 110 games of his career while ranking third in school history with a .395 on-base percentage, fifth with 178 hits and seventh with 99 runs.
“Coming from the Pac-12 with some of the best players out there, I competed with those guys and grew as a player,” he said. “When I first came in, I didn’t play a whole lot but I worked my way up and developed and I hope to do the same thing here. Guys are bigger and stronger and more experienced, but once you get going, it is baseball. I’m sure one of the main differences from college to pro is you have to dedicate yourself to the game rather than having other things like school.”
Kasser spread his time around at Oregon while being named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award given out based on character and work in the community, classroom and competition. He graduated with a 3.17 grade-point average in economics and worked with the Student Athlete Advisory Council.
Kasser won’t be putting those honors on his resume until he sees how far he can go in baseball.
“My whole life I have been undersized, that story,” he said. “Every ballplayer just dreams of having a chance to play so I am happy a team took a chance on me. It is tough to get away from a game I played my whole life. I didn’t want to think about not playing.”